This paper approaches the feminist backlash towards ecofeminism in the 1990s. Grounding their argument on the secular as the sphere of reason, Western feminists (e.g., Janet Biehl) discredited ecofeminism’s scholarship and political relevance to the feminist movement. In this paper, I reflect on the mastery dynamics of what counted as legitimate “analytical categories crucial for feminist thought,” and women’s liberation (Gaard 2011, 35) in the argument against ecofeminist spirituality. I ask, is there a correlation between the perspectives that led Western feminism to couple religion and spirituality with irrationality and the ones that historically justified colonial domination because reason had escaped those more primitive people? I use a decological perspective to demonstrate that reflecting upon this history today is important because it positions front and center the dominator-subordinated dynamics persisting in our modern modes of relationships. Decological is a portmanteau of the terms decolonial, ecological and pedagogical. It addresses the dominator-subordinated form of relationships and dialogue. Through this perspective, I argue that for feminists to mischaracterize ecofeminist dialogue with religion as undercutting reason, and women’s hope for freedom also represented to belittle religious women’s experiences as subsidiary forms of knowledge. Although spiritual ecofeminists’ proposal seemed for many to be regressive and insulting, I argue that the inability to sustain a more constructive form of dialogue, as well as to acknowledge those experiencing different forms of oppression as knowledge producers, is due to the unrecognized mastery dynamics in the self-other modes of relationships. I propose an alternative form of dialogue, a decological praxis.
Elaine Nogueira-Godsey is an Assistant Professor of theology, ecology and race at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. She is the author of a number of influential chapters and articles in ecofeminist scholarship including “A History of Resistance: Ivone Gebara’s Transformative Ecofeminist Liberation Theology” and “Tangible Actions Toward Solidarity: An Ecofeminist Analysis of Women’s Participation in Food Justice” in the book Valuing Lives, Healing Earth, edited by Lilian Dube, Teresia Hinga, Sarah E. Robinson-Bertoni and Theresa A. Yugar. Her expertise is in the development of decolonial methods of research and teaching in relation to the relationship between ecology, gender, race and religion, with a focus on advancing knowledge and experience from the Global South. Approaching ecological and ecofeminist theologies of liberation in conversation with the social-scientific study of religion.